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Law360 (April 16, 2020, 7:00 PM EDT) -- The U.S.-based National Association of Manufacturers has urged the Mexican government to expand its definition of essential businesses, saying a national decree shutting down nonessential industries has closed facilities necessary for the COVID-19 response.
In a letter Wednesday, the National Association of Manufacturers, or NAM, told Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador that the order currently hits member organizations' Mexican facilities that contribute to the North American health care, transportation and agricultural supply lines.
"At a time when we need to ramp up the production of personal protective equipment, lifesaving equipment and medicines, we cannot afford to have any of these critical supply chains shut down if Mexico does not issue guidance that expands and clarifies the industries that are essential," the organization said.
To preserve these supply lines, NAM pressed Obrador to "recognize and reciprocate" a guidance from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that designates which workers are essential to maintain critical national infrastructure.
The DHS advisory, which was released in late March, specifies what type of work must continue within 16 industries deemed critical in spite of shutdown orders. Some of the industries mentioned in the memo include health care, transportation, defense and energy.
Also Wednesday, Mexican health official Hugo Lopez-Gatell Ramirez blasted companies that have flouted the country's emergency order stopping nonessential public, private and social activity until the end of April.
Companies that continue to snub the shutdown will be investigated and forced to close by the Mexican health authority, Ramirez said on Twitter.
He also warned that the public ministry will investigate nonessential businesses that remain open for the possible criminal offense of endangering the public health.
The offenders represent 15% of Mexico's industry and include businesses active in the automotive, lumber, aerospace and construction sectors, according to Ramirez.
Ramirez said that after the shutdown was announced, 18% of Mexico's businesses have been deemed essential and remain open.
The decree was handed down March 30 right as the country hit 1,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases. But that number has since ballooned to more than 5,800 as of Thursday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Officials from the Mexican Health Ministry didn't immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday.
--Editing by Stephen Berg.
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